DNA double-helix with color-coded nucleotides, phosphates and sugar

负责任的基因治疗策略

坎布里奇——发现可以治愈疟疾、莱姆病等多种健康和环境问题的有效新工具确实值得庆贺。但因为这种称之为CRISPR的工具能改变整个野生生物种群(并进而改变共同的生态系统),确保上述工具的研发必须本着负责任的态度也为科学和社会带来了前所未有的挑战。

人类通过选择性育种改变动植物的历史已经延续了数千年之久;但因为这些改变往往会降低野外生存和繁殖能力,因此不会影响到野生种群。但CRISPR疗法带来的改变可以让科学家以前所未有的准确度修改DNA,并因此导致了至关重要的不同:上述过程可能会导致“基因驱动”,具体来讲就是即便不具备提高生存(以及繁殖)能力的效果,但同样可以实现在种群内部代际传递某些基因自然产生的功能。

简言之,我们现在可以考虑以非常具体和重要的方式改变野生种群。上述改变可能会产生显著的积极作用。通过改变蚊虫的某些特点,我们可以减少甚至彻底消除疟疾和登革热等古已有之的灾难,这类疾病每年都在困扰数百万人。(仅疟疾一种病平均每90秒就导致一名儿童丧生。)通过对相关动物种群展开永久性免疫,我们可以预防起源于野生动物的莱姆病及其他疾病新发病例,或者防止寨卡病毒等新型病原体的产生,现代医学已经证实导致拉美新生儿大脑发育迟缓的一种传染病其实是由这种病毒造成的。

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